"Dude! You mean you've never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?!?" Nut allergy as stigma in comic books

Health Commun. 2013;28(3):217-25. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.669671. Epub 2012 May 10.

Abstract

This article examines the representation of nut allergy in comics aimed at children and young people. It maps the signification and stigma of nut allergy in comics, and includes an outline of the imagery, stereotypes, and connotations that are created on this condition. Three texts are examined: first, Allergic, a semi-autobiographical story by Adrian Tomine aimed at young adults; second, What's Up With Paulina? from the Medikidz series of comic books that aim to help a pre-teenage audience learn about medical conditions; and third, Peanut, a forthcoming comic book by Ayun Halliday aimed at those in their early to mid teenage years. Using textual analysis, we focus on three principal areas of the texts. First, we consider the way in which the allergic character is represented in relation to examples of felt stigma, typified by feelings of shame and rejection, and compare this representation to common stereotypes of disability. Second, we look at the representation of other characters, drawing attention to the way in which stigma is enacted, highlighting acts of overt discrimination. Last, we examine the way in which the event of an allergic reaction is portrayed, considering how this might be used to help children and young people better understand nut allergy and combat the stigma attached to it. Throughout the article we compare the representation of stigma in comics with that depicted in empirical research on children living with nut allergies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Books, Illustrated*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nut Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / psychology
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult